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Three Deacons Suing Revs. Rudolph McKissick Sr. and Jr. for Access to $22 Million Loan Records <br><small>Experts Say Financial Transparency, Accountability Key to Church Health</small> - BCNN1

Three Deacons Suing Revs. Rudolph McKissick Sr. and Jr. for Access to $22 Million Loan Records
Experts Say Financial Transparency, Accountability Key to Church Health

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rudolph-mckissick-sr-jr-645.jpgBethel Baptist Institutional Church is spending thousands defending itself from a lawsuit filed by three deacons who say they are worried about the way its leaders spend church money.

 

The problem, they say, is that the Revs. Rudolph McKissick Sr. and Jr. will not allow them and other congregation members to see how a $22 million loan has been used. Their suit to gain access to those records has been winding its way through Duval County Circuit Court for more than a year.

"We just want to see where the money went," one of the plaintiffs, William McCormick, said after a court hearing last month.

Whatever the suit's outcome, the Bethel case is a reminder of how lack of transparency - real or perceived - in church finance can generate everything from headaches to disgruntled parishioners to legal challenges.

But no matter who wins this or any other finance-related legal challenge or criminal case, experts say the fallout will land far beyond the sanctuary walls.

"Search the Internet and you'll find all too many stories of misuse of funds in churches, and when that happens everyone in the Christian world gets a black eye," said Dan Busby, president of Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, a Virginia-based ministry that seeks to bring church finances into the light of day.

The McCormicks and other Bethel leaders declined comment for this story, but, as Busby said, the Web is crawling with nightmarish church-money stories:

- In 1989, Jim Bakker was imprisoned after embezzling more than $150 million from his PTL cable network.

- Ellen F. Cooke, former treasurer of the Episcopal Church, admitted in 2006 to embezzling $1.5 million from the denomination.

- The Rev. Henry J. Lyons was ousted as president of the National Baptist Convention in 1999 and spent time behind bars for stealing $4 million from the denomination to help support a mistress and buy luxury homes and jewelry.

- Earlier this year, two Florida priests were sent to prison for stealing hundreds of thousands from a Catholic parish in Delray Beach.

Busby and other experts, including ministers on the First Coast, say prevention is the best medicine and ranges from having church members with bookkeeping know-how examine spending, to having outside CPAs audit all financial records.

Most church financial woes result from honest mistakes in an environment where the laity is often all too trusting of religious leaders who are, in turn, usually untrained and uninterested in administration, said Chuck Zech, professor and director of the Center for the Study of Church Management at Villanova University.

"No man ever became a priest because he wanted to run a small business, which is what a parish is," Zech said.

'Good stewards'

Whether run by high-ranking officials or by lay people, most congregations try to head problems off at the pass, local ministers said.

At First Baptist Church in Orange Park, annual budgets are drafted by a finance committee, distributed to all members and then voted on by the congregation during a Sunday morning worship service, Pastor David Tarkington said.

Throughout the year, the pastor and other ministers spend the money in their budgets while the finance committee meets monthly to oversee revenues and expenditures.

Every three months, a church-wide business meeting is held where any church member can ask questions or raise concerns. He said that process is similar in most Southern Baptist churches.

"We do it that way to avoid any appearance of impropriety," Tarkington said.

Revenue and spending at Catholic parishes are monitored monthly by dioceses and every four years by outside auditors, said Catherine Macina, chief financial officer of the Jacksonville-based Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine.

The diocese's spending and revenues are examined once a year by an outside auditing firm and every five years by the Vatican, Macina said.

Financial accountability and transparency is an obligation congregations and dioceses owe their parishioners, Macina said.

"We are responsible to the people to show we are being good stewards of their money," she said.

A business approach

Congregations where temptations and conflicts of interest are minimized usually are in less danger of running into fiscal disasters, Zech said.

A prime model are Jewish and Muslim houses of worship, which he said are usually run like businesses with boards of directors that have ultimate control of the purse strings.

In those situations, clergy can make suggestions on budget priorities, but not set them, said Rabbi Martin Sandberg, spiritual leader of Beth Shalom Congregation in Mandarin.

Synagogues also are dues-based instead of relying on tithes, Sandberg said, making it a little easier to predict annual income and expenditures.

Transparency and accountability are achieved through the annual election of the board, whose regular meetings are open to membership, Sandberg said.

"They can ask questions about any issue they feel like, including finances," he said.

'The kingdom suffers'

While the vast majority of church money abuses result from incompetence and lack of diligence, the results are usually devastating on every level imaginable, Busby said.

Most often the damage is immediate and long lasting: Tithing plummets, members quit and a church's reputation is tarnished. These outcomes are exacerbated if lawsuits or criminal charges result, Busby said.

But the greater tragedy, Busby said, is that an entire religious tradition can be tarnished by a scandal. Many quit the faith altogether, while the issue provides ammunition to critics of organized religion.

Another result is that embezzled, misspent or misplaced money, by definition, isn't accomplishing whatever ministerial goal or project for which it was meant. So the poor suffer and missions go without much-needed dollars, Busby said.

"The kingdom of God suffers when we don't practice proper oversight of God's funds."

Source: Florida Times Union | Jeff Brumley - jeff.brumley@jacksonville.com, (904) 359-4310
Jacksonville.com

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Hierarchical vs. Congregational

Church financial guru Chuck Zech offers this rule of thumb for oversight of church finances: The more hierarchical the church, the more likely it is to have built-in fiscal oversight. That's because a church run from the top down is more likely to use shared financial management software, have the funds to pay for outside audits and hire its own accountants. One reason some of these denominations have had major financial scandals is that they are more likely to catch embezzlers, Zech said.

Next are traditions known as "congregational," in which decisions are made by members of the church. They may or may not have financial controls in place, but their leaders have opportunities for shared training in financial and other administrative matters. Then there are non-denominational churches, which usually have the least amount of financial oversight and accountability, Zech said. "A lot of these are mom-and-pop shops where the pastor is a very charismatic figure and the parishioners are reluctant to put a lot of oversight" on their spending authority.

Hierarchical groups include: - Catholic - Episcopal - Methodist - Lutheran - Presbyterian Congregational groups include: - Assemblies of God - Baptists - Churches of Christ - United Church of Christ

IMPROVING OVERSIGHT

Tips for congregations on improving fiscal accountability: - Use financial management software designed for businesses. - Appoint a committee to oversee all revenue and expenditures. - Hire an outside accountant to conduct an annual audit, and make the results public - at least to members. Smaller churches could have members with bookkeeping expertise conduct internal audits. - Hold regular meetings where members can be updated on financial matters and ask questions. - Establish policies governing how gifts are used and how donors will be notified of their use.

Sources: Charles Zech, Dan Busby

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9 Comments

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I am a member of this great church and love these great men of God. This message is for the four men that is so concern about the $22 million - I am assuming that you all are no longer members correct? So what business is it of yours where any of the money was spent.

The majority of us could care less as long as these great men continue to deliver God's word. Gentlemen if I leave Bethel tomorrow! the $22 million loan remains at that church! My spirt tells me you all are lost souls. Please pray for GOD to help guide you to find your own business.

This is very distrubing for the person who wrote this reply. You should be concerened what hapended to this money. No matter how great the word is being delivered you can't just spend the church's money any way you choose to.

The same thing happened to his mentee, E. Dewey Smith Jr. Some deacons were asking where the money went due to lavish spending. When challenged, he began showing all of the stuff that he had done for the church since he arrived. Where is the transparency? Read about King Uzziah's demise, it's the same thing!

This is in response to Anonymous. Are you seriously thinking that leaders who receive a $22 million-dollar loan, under "THE CHURCH's" name, does not have to provide information on where the loan went? It appears to me that u have no sense of business, responsibility, or integrity, which play roles on our road to holiness. U cannot separate the annointing of God from having integrity and character with church finances. In any case, I would not stop paying my tithes and offering,due to being obedient to God's Word. I also do not want to feel like I'm paying for a pastor's $22 million-dollar PERSONAL loan. Anonymous, get your head out of the clouds. Just because God uses a man to speak His Word, doesn't mean that man cannot or will not make mistakes or fall. Sweeties, gifts come without repentance.

our moral infidelity as leaders can be examined. no,one individual is above reproach it's sad that this situation couldn't be handled in house. one way or the other guilty or not GOD still will be glorified in the sense that we can't trust no one but HIM. This congregation based on opinionated pupils will think different about their leader(s) some for a short period of time others it'll never leave them. pray for them people! I BELEVE THEY MADE A GRAVE MISTAKE.

it is truly amazing to me how quickly we as blacks are to crucify the men or women of God. nowhere in the article does it say either of the pastors are GUILTY OF ANYTHING CRIMINAL and yet most of you talk as if they are. has it ever occurred to you that these three have a different axe to grind (which by the way has been shown and proven from letters and emails of character assassination they have sent out prior and since this lawsuit. while no man is perfect and i know both of them have their own flaws (which they both are quick to point out in many a sermon), to automatically assume that THREE OUT OF AN ENTIRE MINISTRY OF DEACONS AND NO TRUSTEES MIND YOU are correct is a little silly and unfortunate. so for those of you who want to crucify the two pastors a little enlightenment might be needed. they showed on a sunday morning THE ENTIRE BREAKDOWN of the loan and where each penny went. these three demonic FORMER DEACONS (yes they were put off the miniustry...not by the Pastors but by the deacons after being shown all of the demonic emails and letters being sent out by them...including one implying that Jr is mentally ill as a punishment from God because his parents got together as a result of an affair like david and bathsheba. and erverything i am sharing i know because it was shared in meetings with proof for all of you who are automatic naysayers.
so, why don't we get the entire story before we jump to jumping on the preacher so quickly always assuming they are thieves. sometimes it's just older people who don't like new directions and lash out when they see they have no power to return it to what it used to be.
GOD FORGIVE US FOR SO QUICKY JUDGING!!!!

To the memebers of the church, it is very obivious that we all make mistakes, that is why we are placed here from Genisis; and you can't deny that. I am not a memeber of the church and feel no need to, to me it is a tradition thing commanded by men, and not God. No where did Jesus stop before healing a man and asked, "are you a memeber," the calling and the labor must go on, the lessons and experience must be teached and met. It is critical to my understanding, to be blind to the fact that you care less how your money is being spent in an unGodly way. It is very selfish to Me, to hear a lawsuit being filed against so called men of God. While they're in trial, kids are bleeding, babies are crying, and people are homeless and need help. It's not so much of what you see that matters, of course there are many things that are shown that are above the understanding of a man. There is work to be handle. Our communities yet suffer because of a colt attitude that has developed in the church. Bethel have grown too large in number and care less, about losing one little sheep. Worthless Shepards cause many anonymous to suffer. Be wise and prudent, don't be a fool, this knowledge is in you,no more shall every man teach his neighbor saying, "Know the Lord," for they all shall know Me, right from wrong.

No where in the good book, lies color issues, take a look at Proverbs, the poor man and the oppressor have this in common the Lord gives light to the eyes of both. Our city, our community is in a desperate stake of Mt. Hermon's help, we need help within each other. It's not a black thing, color is prohibted when we base our concerns to God. If these men are guilty or not, things like this should never rise to that suspicion. It is not lawful for you, to be unwise. If we could stop focusing on ourself and focus on each other, then this kind of thing would have never happened. Empty words, persuasive words of a different motive behind them has lead to this deceit. That money could have helped ten thousand people, it's not about You, it's about helping others. Why pay for another man or woman, that is just exactly like you, a human, to live in such a way that will not benfit you? Salary, get a job and the word never says pay your pastor or whoever, it says bless the man of God as he blesses you. Get your eyes out of the black and white, wrong is wrong, don't get destroyed because of your own tradional beliefs, we need to get it together. As a young-black man i am more than convienced, that the help is not in the church, but the help is in the people.

Every month there is a church held meeting to talk about all the dealings og this church! Free to all members to come and listen , write, gossip or whatever! Fact is these men who said this were not dealing in truth nor were they being christian by spreading rumors!! And sadly enough many of you on here who quote scripture and act Holy, are doing the same thing they did! I've been a member 41 years and how dare anyone who knows Bishop Sr or Jr slander their names with no facts to back it up! May God forgive you all for judgement and i ask you pray for the men who lied on these men! Again we as members know where monies are because we show up to find out!

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